Lowell, Percival

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Lowell, Percival

Percival Lowell, 1855–1916, American astronomer, b. Boston, grad. Harvard, 1876; brother of Abbott Lawrence Lowell and Amy Lowell. He visited Korea and Japan, where he acted as counselor and foreign secretary to the Korean Special Mission to the United States and wrote several books about East Asia. Becoming interested in astronomy, he established (1894) the Lowell Observatory at Flagstaff, Ariz., and devoted himself to making personal observations. It was his belief that Mars was inhabited and that the striations on the Martian surface were artificial waterways. He also contended that there was a planet beyond Neptune (seemingly confirmed in 1930 by the discovery of Pluto, but Pluto is now regarded as a dwarf planet). From 1902 he was nonresident professor of astronomy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Among his many writings on astronomy are Mars and Its Canals (1906) and The Genesis of Planets (1916).

See biography by A. L. Lowell (1935).

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